Category Archives: Built heritage

Window sills – using scrap wood









My two favourite pieces of scrap wood finally being used

So lots of off -cuts from planks made from our meagre selection of trees that were felled and cut up into pieces primarily for use as beams to carry curtain poles – I never would burn good wood and so after sitting around for 8 years I decided to make window sills that will match with the curtain beams for the 6 upstairs windows.

However it took a few steps to get there as wood was different thickness – so I pack-out with thin ply or scrap wood. Next step was to use dowels to somehow knit planks together – tricky at start but not difficult –  I used the tool below on right

so these dowels I put in to cut down on warping and keep different thickness planks together but it is heavy wood and more dowels would be needed plus glue and clamping which isn’t realistic if you don’t have perfectly created flat sides so next step was

screws to secure now dowelled woods together39142794290_8f99cea1f4_o

But a sill needs to be a sound base as it will have someone either sitting on it or standing on it so the final step once packed out with filler wood is to secure 3/4 inch ply to the underbase


The wood is still very rough – I intend to get the same finish as the beams that match it overhead so one day I will take out the woodplaner and beltsander but the hardest bit is done.

Cost of growing trees used for house project – nil

cost of getting trees cut up   – 80 euros – scraps were about half of total so 40 euros

cost of scrap ply and few screws  – 20 euros tops

cost of labour – that’s arguable as it depends on what else you could be doing

cost if you were to buy 1 sill – many multiples of total sills made cost to me


Bedroom chimney rebuild – upstairs big room

cut open chimney for lintel – just below this can vaguely be seen a blocked up fireplace – done with cement blocks – my aim was to take out blocks – put in a lintel and leave – simple idea but labourious process so see the steps below


Backside of previous pic – downstairs parlour room – the good room and upstairs filled in op

Below are the steps of restoring the upstairs dividing wall, much time was spent trying to repoint deeply the surrounding stone wall so that removing material would not lead to a catastrophic collapse.

Having rebuilt parts of the wall below; including a rebuilt chimney stack, it was then possible to do upstairs.  However that wasnt going to be simple as two fireplaces – one downstairs feeds into the upper one; as I didn’t want a working one upstairs I decided to blank it  and focus on just  the one. No lintel was in place and the wall was crumbling so I built the left-hand side first and then put in the lintel – which had to be propped up (as well as the wall).

The wall was 2 feet shy of the ceiling in some places –  nothing straight and nothing stable


See pics above – some of these pictures are out of sink because this is what had to be done before I could form the new chimney – no wonder I don’t have any hair left –  this was a very heavy bit of stonework – I hazard a guess 1 ton plus is balancing.  I wanted to take it to floor level but the last builders cemented those bricks in place creating a rock solid mass resistant to the pneumatic drill I used years previously and nothing was going to shift them – and so I left it there to sort this problem later – bit silly really.

Rebuilding the chimney was never going to be straight forward and so this risky strategy had to be employed; which I do not recommend.

Dolphins Barn brick – a bit of history also from the city where I grew up

2013-11-02 12.09.47

Chimney wall completed – sigh of relief

So dummy beam out and new beam in but no partition wall as yet, oh and the wall is up to ceiling level. This area was originally divided into 3 rooms plus the attic mezzanine area – I have put it into two but with a corridor.



This was used to keep the  outer chimney bricks from collapsing – maybe installed at a later date. Could be made from old cart spring


Another chimney support rescued from demolished chimney is part of an old cart axle – used now as support for stones used in smoking chamber – that now is part of stairwell ceiling


Hand made mud bricks –  these were put in under some branches used to prop up roof at a later date.  Made of sun-dried marle subsoil – did the job but dissolve quickly.  Mud cottages would not have been strange then and many are still lived in – nearly everything would have been at hand – branches for roof, mud for walls and straw for a roof.


Hand forged bolts and fireplace anchors in background – the last  local forge closed only in the last 10 years and perhaps his predecessors even made these items. In fore-ground is modern steel bracket used to hold wood plank which will carry curtain-rails; I had it made in the local engineering works. See  bracket used  over window in picture below.

2016-10-29-11-06-13 If you look at cut out shape in front of window you will see how I made the template using plasterboard to arrive at finished wood that goes from window under the lintel to the curtain plank. A very tedious job as each shape is different due to the walls construction.

2016-10-29-11-05-46so each window had its own shape to be done – no shortcuts with this job 2016-10-29-11-06-50



Doors where panels  were either rotten from sitting in a damp ruin for so many years or where the woodworm had their wicked ways. I routed out around the edge of the panel – the retaining door frame itself so releasing the rotten panel – only done on one side of course – great care has to be taken not to go through the panel  as you will have to fix a small quadrant on other side to hold the new panel. 3 ply is easily and cheaply bought.


This door below had so many layers of paint that I had to be careful to do it outside and keep removing the burnt off paint flakes as they were igniting the other fallen paint strips lying on the ground – it is a slow and painful process but had to be done as the paint was blistering and cracking.2017-02-03-12-30-051.jpg


view of stone soffit

As can be seen the stone soffit I wanted to retain, however, normally the slate comes to the edge of this and falls down too close for my liking to the walls of the house – there is enough damp already without more splashing from the roof.  So I got the local engineering company to make these supports that both carry the external roof wood and the facing soffit. Fitting again was fiddly as I was putting in 6 inches plus of 3/4 inch threaded bars (2 for each bracket) –  spacing was dependent on getting gaps in the mortar in the right place – variable as 2 holes to fit the bars – that is why the brackets are haphazardly put in.


close up of brackets

I tried to keep the outer soffit relatively straight so coachbolts have been used to fix on 6X2 wood – packing out each one to counter the in and out contour of the roof lip.

Also to stop birds and insects accessing the roof space I put in chicken wire and mortar at regular intervals – and a mesh for smaller crawlies. Also you need good airflow getting into the roof space – that it has.

Keeping standards reasonable

This is my first ever blog or whatever medium this is considered; for me its a record of what I have achieved along the way with stopping an old house from being a pile of stone only suitable for use as a new wall or filling for a new road.  When I consider how few pictures I have taken and how many old computers have died taking with them pictorial memories of my step by step {baby ones}  attempt to conserve four walls and a tin roof. I think that its about time I put it out there what a total amateur can do given the free rein to ignore all sensible advice and just get stuck in.

I have a scanner to attach to get the oldest pics loaded up and will try to get it, the project, as sequential as possible, but for others I hope even one tip would be of benefit because I have learnt at some cost to my ego that not heeding finer details can mean redoing a job – which is very hard to keep quiet from certain people who you dont wish to appear anything other then being purely an expert amateur. So with that I will undertake to upload early pics and hope they are clear enough to see, standards are relatively low here but hopefully realistic . Watch this space